Join an institute that is making neuroscience at Rutgers a highly translational and internationally preeminent research enterprise.

Program Progression



A collaborative and meaningful advisor-student relationship is integral to the successful training of students in this program. Incoming students must select 3 laboratory rotations during the first year. Students are expected to have chosen a provisional dissertation advisor by the end of their first year's study. If a student has a clear preference for a specific research area or faculty advisor, he or she may arrange to begin work with his or her chosen advisor immediately. Rotation Form Neuroscience

Arranging Rotations:

Selection of rotations will be further facilitated by John Pintar, Program Director, and Joan Mordes, Program Assistant, in conjunction with the students.  Annual program orientation is held to introduce new students to faculty with openings for rotating students.

Rotation Reports Required:

A one-page summary of the work done in each rotation is to be prepared and submitted to Joan Mordes, Program Assistant. This summary should include the name of the lab, the dates of the rotation, the objectives of the work, the nature of the student's participation, and the results.  Faculty mentors are also asked to submit a short summary evaluation in order to provide the student’s final research grade for the particular semester. Rotation Evaluation Form

Qualifying Examination Requirements

The Neuroscience Qualifying Examination is administered in two parts that typically are taken in the second and third years of graduate study and must be completed by the end of the second and third years, respectively. The first part examines the ability to think critically about several topics after a period of reading and discussing primary publications on different topics with several faculty members. The second part is an oral defense of a thesis proposal that will serve as the foundation for completing dissertation research. These formats are described in more detail below:

The first part of the qualifying exam consists of a written portion (open-book), lasting one week, during which a student is typically asked to design experiments to test hypotheses posed and/or to evaluate strengths and weaknesses of an area of the scientific literature. The student has had the opportunity to establish familiarity with several areas by reading and discussing reviews and primary literature with 3-4 faculty members. Each committee member will choose 10-15 papers for the student to read that are relevant to a topic of mutual interest and will meet individually with the student for discussion usually 2 – 3 times to ensure that the student has understood the papers as well as to provide an opportunity for the student to ask specific questions regarding the readings. If the student’s Advisor wishes, he/she may abstain from submitting a question for the written exam. However, at least 3 committee members, not counting the advisor, must submit questions.

Prior to the written exam, the student and advisor will send the anticipated start date for the exam to the Program Director/Administrator.  For this exam, each of the committee members will provide questions for students that are sent to both the student’s advisor and to the Program Director and /Administrator. Once questions from committee members have been received, the PI can then assemble the exam and provide the entire exam to the student at one time. If the PI wishes, Joan Mordes instead can assemble the exam and send it to the student. After receiving the exam, the student then has 7 days to answer all questions and send each back to the advisor and the  Program Director/Administrator who will distribute answers to individual faculty for comments Each committee member will, after reading the written responses to the Examination, evaluate the responses and communicate comments and any concerns directly to the student’s major advisor, and the Program Director. This evaluation must be sent even if the student did well and passed the exam. Committee members are required to evaluate the written responses within three weeks of exam completion though an earlier response is highly encouraged. Please complete the Qualifying Exam A form upon completion of the written exam.

For the second part of the Qualifying Examination, the Outside Member (a faculty member not a member of the Neuroscience Program) must be included. It is often valuable, but not required, for the outside member to be from a different institution. The student will submit a written thesis proposal to the Committee based on preliminary results obtained in the thesis laboratory. The student is required to provide the written thesis proposal to all committee members no later than two weeks prior to the scheduled Oral Examination. The student will then defend the thesis proposal in an Oral Examination. This part of the Qualifying Examination is to be completed no later than the end of the sixth semester, though it may be taken earlier. Please complete the Qualifying Exam B form as well as the Annual Committee meeting form upon completion of the propositional of the second part of the qualifying exam.

When both Written and Oral parts of the Qualifying Examination have been judged by the student’s committee to have been completed successfully, the student will be considered to have passed the Qualifying Examination and will then be advanced to candidacy and proceed to complete his/her dissertation research project.

Annual Committee Meeting

The student and advisor should select a research advisory committee consisting of at least two other members of the Neuroscience Program faculty plus one individual familiar with the student's field of research from outside the Program, preferably from outside the institution. The membership of the committee must be approved by the Program Director by the student submitting the form to be completed and signed by each committee member. This committee will meet at least once each year to review the student's progress and submit an Annual Research Advisory Committee Meeting form.

Thesis Defense

When the student's research has achieved the goals agreed upon by the committee and his or her advisor, a dissertation describing the results of the work is to be written according to the guidelines established described in the graduate information site for SGS New Brunswick/Piscataway students, distributed to the committee for their evaluation, and presented in a lecture open to the public. The student is required to provide the written thesis proposal to all committee members no later than two weeks prior to the scheduled Thesis Defense.

Following the public discussion, the committee may examine the student on issues related to the research in a closed session. Formal acceptance of the dissertation requires the approval of a majority of the members of the committee. If such approval is not obtained, revisions to the dissertation or additional research may be required before the degree is granted.  All graduation forms must be completed and submitted as described on the graduation information site.

Important Links

To view the Academic Formsclick here

To view the Neuroscience Learning Goals, click here

To view the By-Laws of the Graduate Program in Neuroscience, click here